Island Blog 131 Gifts

 

nebula

 

Sometimes in my life surprising gifts are given.  I remember my paintings being ‘out there’ in some gallery miles away for flipping ages doing nothing, it seemed, and then, just when I needed a lift, encouragement, a gift, it came; always a surprise.  There I was, ferreting about for enough cash or whatever wherewithall I needed, thinking How Can I manage This, and with stealth and whilst I was looking the other way, in came the gift.  Somebody bought a painting!

Of course, there are those of us who just know their paintings will sell wherever and whenever they hang them in white-walled galleries anywhere in the country just because they have a following; because someone loves watercolour landscapes, or elephants or canoes with bears in or cows with attitude, but I never had that following because every painting was in a different mood, employing different hues, tones. shapes.  Hence The Gift.

It seems to me, now that I look back across the years, my eyes moving in fast-forward but backwards that there is a plan here.  Not mine, I hasten to say, because I am like a chicken most of the time, grubbing in the dirt for whatever I’m looking for, picking over the stones and bones of life to find some nugget that will make me rise up and shout ‘Aha! and find me later relating this moment as an epiphany, and one that has altered from that moment on, my whole direction in life.

When Spring comes every year bless her old heart, she sort of spits and spurts, gives a little and then withdraws for many see-saw weeks.  One minute, cardy off and all that white flesh revealed for a couple of afternoon hours, the next she churns up snowdrifts that stop us going through Glen Coe.  One minute we are bringing out our daisy-festooned frock, the next snarling our way back into that frightful blue jumper, covered in pulls and paint marks and fighting off chillblains beside the woodburner.  We go from hot stews to no thanks I’m not hungry and meanwhile the salad vegetables, hurriedly ordered by an over-keen grocer after two days of warmth, moulder into bronze on the shelf and end up smelling something rotten in the wheelie bin.  And when she comes, Spring, she causes me much unrest.  All the birds are building nests and not overthinking anything at all.  The sun shows up the domestic slut that I am, and the windows look out onto what looks like fog.  Any visit outdoors would sort that in a nanosecond.  At Tapselteerie the begrudging Spring Clean would have been well and truly done by now, but given choices, as I now have, there is no such thing.

And with this Spring, there came a gift, unexpected, unsought, random and wonderful. In the ordinariness of any life, there are stars.

There are always stars.

 

Island Blog 112 Chrispepsia

santa

 

Still on the subject of Love, I find myself in a wee panic as I suddenly realise how close we have come to Christmas.  In the olden days when all my chicks lived under the same roof, it was comparatively simple in that I knew exactly what they wanted and did my best to find it.  Christmas lists were read and laid to one side as they usually contained expensive new toys, noticed in other’s homes or found in television adverts, and quite out of the pocket-question for us.  Now they are grown and gone, parents most of them, and I have no idea what they want.  Even buying for their little ones throws me.  I know them, in that I would indentify them in in a crowd, but what little ones want and like and, most importantly, what their parents will accept or allow leaves me standing quite still and staring out the window, my mind a scummy blank.

Clothes.  They all have a zillion clothes, from chic inter-familial hand-me-downs to outfits bought by a parent who knows that this one can’t wear nylon mix, another goes red in the face above a tight polo neck, yet another adores Peppa Pig, Lightning McQueen or Angry Birds and that’s three different little ones.  And which has just lengthened by a few inches, or grown larger feet?  Toys, from my recent check online at either incredibly expensive six times over or offering total rubbish that needs batteries they don’t even bother to supply.

What I find now, as I have always found, is that strange arisal of guilt inside me.  It is called Chrispepsia, a word sandwich merging Christmas and Dyspepsia.  I want to give…….. no, to show by my gift, that nobody is more important than another. I have never succeeded, not once.  Somebody is always disappointed.

When I buy a gift, I buy what I think they would absolutely adore and am surprised when they don’t adore it at all, never mind absolutely.  Hence, a list.  But there is a part of me that doesn’t want to be given a list, but who wants to surprise.  When I overhear an adult asking a child ‘So what is Santa bringing you this Christmas’, I inwardly tut, especially when the answer is An X Box, or a Mountain Bike.  Don’t they know there is only one Santa and a vast world-full of children?  We surely don’t expect the old chap to set off multiple times because he cannot fit onto his sleigh more than one or two bikes at a time, do we? And how does a mother explain to her child who only got a few trinkets, some nuts and a tangerine in his stocking, that Santa doesn’t have favourites, when one schoolmate  got an X Box and another, a Mountain Bike?

I have said, until the room falls asleep yawning, that Christmas is a time for giving, not getting, but it is clear to me that nobody paid the slightest attention.  So, back to Chrispepsia.  I’m right in the thick of it now and as lost as ever I was.  In the past I have made things, things that undoubtedly fell apart by February, but nobody said.  This year I haven’t made a thing, other than an impact on a lot of readers of Island Wife which doesn’t get me out of Chrispepsia.

There are forward looking folk who will already have wrapped and labelled all their gifts, planned their festive dinner, and may well be considering erecting their Christmas Tree.  These goodly people have a clear head, strong decision-making powers.  They don’t fanny about with the ditherers, whereas I am right in their midst. And, even when I have decided, bought and labelled each gift, I still feel unsure.  On the day, as they begin to open it, I want a big hole to swallow me up.  I don’t think they feel any concerns at all.  It is just me and my Chrispepsia.

I have worked out, after a bunch of hours staring through windows, that I must measure my love in a material gift.  The fact that I give in so many other ways during the year before, and after this great day, disappears like smoke in a westerly gale.  And yet, my chicks and their chicks know how I show my love.  I show it in actions, in written words at times of trouble, in spontaneous acts of random kindness, in patience, understanding, acceptance.  I walk it.  Any distance, any time. And I always always will.

So, you big twit, what’s the problem?  You can just turn up, bring wine and cake, plasters and patience, fun and nonsense, ideas and iodine.  Bring your hands for holding, for easing pain, for cooking supper. Bring your voice to encourage, sing, talk things through; your imagination for games or to develop a conversation;  your skills to help, to share a burden, to celebrate another, to lift spirits.

Ok so I’m the gift for Christmas then?

Yes you are……..we all are…….plus the odd trinket of course.

Island Blog 73 – To Give or not to Give

Island Blog 73

I learned recently of a man who gave his wife a lovely piece of jewellery.

And then left her.

She kept it for some years, eventually making the decision to sell it.

Of course, any beauty it ever had was lost way back when it no longer spoke of love and giving, but more, perhaps of duty and guilt.

It made me think of what really is beautiful to our eyes, and not for a moment, but for always, and the answer is that it has little to do with eyes and everything to do with heart.

Gifts are often given to alleviate guilt, to fill in that huge empty void, so often an unwelcome part of a relationship, the place where communication forgot to settle and make into a home.

I don’t know how to love you the way you want, so I will buy you this, once I’ve checked the price tag and been suitably impressed.  I won’t even be sure you will like the gift, but you won’t be able to show anything other than delight, once you realise how much it cost me.  After that, I can go back to not communicating with you for another year.

Phew!

Lovely gifts are always free.  We never remember the gifts that were bought and paid for, unless they directly reflect the level of communicated love we receive from the giver.  If this giver always criticises and grumbles at us, then suddenly presents us with a pretty gift they just know we will love to wear, but have never worn before, what on earth do we believe of them?

Confused, no dot or com.

So each time I put it on it feels awkward for it is not something I ever wear nor ever have worn so why…….

Aha!  I get it.  This is what you would like me to like, so that you can like me better, because, then, I’ll be more like you, not me!

No longer confused, although I do wonder if I’m really here at all.

The giving of gifts is a free offering, without expectation of anything.  Not even a thank you letter.

Otherwise, it is just control.  Of course, I am excited to give whatever it is I am giving you.  It could be my time, my smile, my kind words, my whole life, but I must remind myself that, unless I give these and many more similar gifts, freely, I am not giving at all, but taking.

So what do I do when my giving is not received as such?  When it is, at best, unnoticed, at worst, rejected?  Do I keep giving, fighting back the hurt and resentment that curdles my belly, or do I stop altogether and be true to myself?

Many have pondered this one but only a handful ever managed to get it right.  I don’t mean a handful this year or even this century, but ever in the whole history of time.  A handful.

For those who seek this blissful state of giving without expectation, there is a huge and lucrative business out there just waiting to welcome us in.  There are ‘Find Yourself’ workshops, group therapy sessions, counsellors and psychiatrists all trained and qualified in this method and that method and many, including myself, have benefited from their wisdom and guidance.  But there is no quick fix answer that works across the board.

I think it is a daily journey, as long as we are seeking a better way to love.  And never giving up.

A Point in Time

Island Blog 38 - Three Amigos

 

Last night I watched something on one of those TV channels that loves adverts – or, rather, the revenue they bring in.  I hate them.  Not only do I not want a deep pile shag wool carpet with drip-resistant fibres and enough depth for the dog to get mislaid in overnight, or a 6-seater sofa in ivory tweed for the six members of the family who can’t wait to sit very close together and in a dead straight line of an evening, but it’s the interruption that bugs me most.  There I am, trying to work out who committed the crime, or wallowing in the poignancy of a tragic drama, allowing myself to float away on a cloud of wonderful acting and exquisite prose, when my thoughts are interrupted mid-reverie by squeals of over-excitement about some new and luminous cereal that the whole family will adore including the dog – especially the dog, after a confusing night in the shag pile.

It got me thinking about what really matters in life, and not one of them can be purchased with a credit card.  Time, for example. Time for looking.  Time for loving.  Time to give away, to share.

Although time is the one thing that all of us crave and all of us lack to some degree, it is the last thing we seem to treasure. We say we are running out of it.  We say we haven’t any to spare, and yet, time is constant, dependable, a never-ending supply day after day, year after year, and we all have the same amount to spend, regardless of our situation.

I think we need reminding sometimes, of the important and lasting valuables of life, ones no online site or department store will ever sell.  In particular, a reminder about our family members need for our time, because from time freely given comes involvement, sharing, comradeship, bridge-building and, above all, the ability to see what makes someone happy, what makes someone sad.  It trounces loneliness.  It requires no particular skills, no clever techniques.  It is just sitting with another or walking alongside them and asking gentle questions, talking together about things you can’t buy, and sharing, listening and smiling.  It is about being there and being there again and again, stepping into their world, be they 5, 15, 50, or 150. It’s about saying no to ourself and our own busy schedule and throwing it into the air, asking the question ‘What is important here?’ and finding to our own surprise, that it isn’t what we thought it was.  Lunch can wait, the TV news can be missed today.  Someone needs us, and not tomorrow at ten, but right this minute.

We all want time with the ones we love and if it means we don’t get an expensive gift, or a new carpet/sofa/gadget, we honestly, honestly won’t mind.  In fact, we will find we didn’t really want them at all.  What we wanted is what we have; a loved one who wants to be at our side; one who cares deeply enough to turn from their own world and to step into ours; who feels our joy and our sadness; who never lets us down. Relationships can be saved this way.  All of them.